Forgiveness is a scandal. Forgiveness is irrational. It is out of balance, disproportionate, beyond our capacity, humanly unjust, and controversial ... and very, very real, liberating, and healing. It is always premature and it is always timely.
God forgives you. He does not excuse you or your deeds. He forgives you. He does not force you to accept forgiveness, but He does not cease to offer it.
Society may not forgive. Rational people may not. History may not. The justice system may not. But God does and God's people do as they open the channel of giving and receiving it in their own hearts.
The magnitude of the offense is not nor ever is the issue. Your remorse is not the issue. Deterrence is not the issue. There is no issue. This is beyond issues.
The only issue is the issue of blood from the hands, feet, and side of Jesus.
"Father, forgive THEM..."
It cost God to forgive. It costs God to forgive.
To maintain truth and justice while extending mercy can tear at the heart of humans and of God. To be angry and to sin not is tough. But bitterness and hatred are tougher and more toxic.
God invites and equips us to do the same as He does. We cannot demand it of others or of God for ourselves or anyone. But when He enables us to give it, we receive more than we give.
It also costs us to receive forgiveness because it implies that we know we need to receive it and makes us vulnerable at levels that evoke it from us. It strips us bare and hangs our lives on crosses.
Sometimes it may be too early to talk about it because one must process what it is that is being forgiven.
Yet, here is the scandal.
It was brought to bear upon us by the victims of a terrible atrocity recently and no one has the right to criticize them for it. What they did was because their primary identity was not their skin color that made them a target or their ideology or their victimology. They identified with the Forgiver.
A racist was confronted with a God who is no respecter of the arbitrary labels we assign to human being.
Those forgivers are first and foremost, children of God and, in forgiving, they declare that nothing can take that away from them. That is their dignity not their weakness.
I hear people marginalizing them, dismissing them, considering them weak, naïve, or unsophisticated in understanding their own emotions. How condescending!
Argue the societal implications of forgiveness all you like. Discuss who is authorized to offer forgiveness. Theorize its repercussions. It does not matter.
The voices of those who cry out, however prematurely you think it is, speak of their character before God and much more, the GRACE and power of God in their lives. His love in them is stronger than hate and it is love that shall prevail.
Nothing in forgiveness negates justice.
Nothing minimizes indignation.
In fact it fires up indignation at anything and everything less than God's love at work in the world and His justice lifting up every man, woman, boy, and girl.
I can only forgive the Boston Bomber or the Butcher of Charleston, or ISIS for the minimal effects of their crimes on me. Those who have suffered most and more have more to forgive and so many have. Their witness inspires me to forgive the petty little offenses I have suffered with such boisterous protest.
If God forgives those who create the most horrific, massive, and public crimes, how about you and me?
Why would we leave such a gift on the table?
Stephen, in Acts, led his accusers through long bible study and recounting of the grace of God at work in history and the response of the crowd was ... ... to pick up rocks and throw them at him until he died.
His response ... "God, don't put this on their account ..."
God forgives you and it is irrationally scandalous.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. - Galatians 5:13
Some of you will be planning your Independence Day picnics and excursions this week. You will be laying out menus, itineraries, guest lists, and budgets, but you may forget a matter or two of great significance. As you plan to overindulge in whatever you find appealing, you are likely to forget that liberty is not license and that it is a costly gift – a calling to serve others.
Now that you have been reminded, perhaps you can build some plans into your feasts and excursions for remembering the heritage, which has brought you such amazing freedom, and contributing to the legacy that will insure it for the next generation.
First, take time to remember that your freedom ultimately is a gift from God and has been bought with the price of Christ’s blood. Then, remember that this garden of liberty we call America has been fertilized with the blood of liberty-lovers through the years. Let us pause to be grateful. Build it in to your plans for the day whether that means raising the flag or taking a few moments to participate in a ceremony of remembrance.
Second, remember your calling – not to indulge the flesh with unbridled lusts and gluttony, but to serve others in Jesus’ Name. The heart of discipleship is service and the heart of Americanism is neighborliness. What a wonderful time of the year it is to go out of our way to be good neighbors. Lead your family in a good neighbor project and a servant ministry as a way of thanking God and our forefathers for the liberty we enjoy.
Brothers and sisters, you have been called to liberty.
Today's Reading from the Common Lectionary cycle of the Psalms (16) with my reflections (written some years back):
Psalm 16:1 - Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
Never separate the two parts of this prayer or you will diffuse its power. The first part is a request made in faith. The second is a declaration of faith upon which every request is made and in which our confidence resides. Safety, in and of itself, is of limited value. We are safe from what and for what? The end and the means are the same here. We are made safe by abiding that we might safely abide in Christ. If God is our refuge, that is enough to say. It is an end in itself. To be in Christ is the end that brings every new beginning. Where is your principal residence in this life? Every anxiety and discomfort is addressed by the answer of faith. If you reside in God and take refuge in Him, then rest in Him and abandon all concern for safety from that which you cannot control. God is in charge.
Psalm 16:2 - I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
This is so very important! First, we must recognize that to say “Lord” is not just to utter a religious word or to speak with respect toward our chosen deity. In the naming of God as Lord is a relinquishment of every other value, treasure, and prize. It is to acknowledge Him as Supreme Master and to render everything else in our lives as valueless apart from Him. It is in acknowledging Him as the source of every good gift that those gifts have worth. It is in knowing Him that every other vision fades in importance and takes its place in His court as subservient to His will.
Psalm 16:3 - As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
One of the great privileges of the new birth is that we are born into a family of saint with whom we can associate and in whose fellowship we can delight. To be a saint is to be separate, holy, and dedicated to a particular function. That function, for the Christian, is the praise and glory of God. In one sense, it is not a mysterious or otherworldly thing to be a saint. In another sense, it is to profoundly embrace a mystery that we can never fully understand and be apprehended by a world far beyond our reach in these mortal bodies. If one is a saint indeed, one loves other saints because, in them, we see God’s face as clearly as possible in this life –even among those who dwell in the land.
Psalm 16:4 - The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.
Today, we join the eternal chorus of welcome as the Lord Jesus Christ enters into our consciousness as the King who comes in the Name of the Lord. He is the Prince of Peace and righteousness. His Kingdom comes with glory and praise, but also with a cross of pain and disgrace. Yet, He willing enters into the sphere of time, space, and judgment to face whatever stands between Him and His mission to bring all who welcome Him into eternal fellowship with the Father. Let us lift our voices in worship as we worship Him.
Psalm 16:5 - Lord, you have assigned my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
God is righteous. That means that everything about Him is fully integrated into His holy character – He is 100% pure truth, love, goodness, and holiness. There are no contradictions in God – except those that we contrive in our own misunderstanding of Him. He loves justice. His heart delights in seeing things set aright. He loves consistency in our lives. He takes joy when His truth is integrated into the loose dimensions of our lives and we come into right relationship with Him. There is a promise in this verse, that the upright will see His face. What a glorious affirmation! The more we seek Him, the more our hearts are changed by His power within us and the clearer our vision of Who He is becomes. We can see God. His grace in Jesus Christ removes the scales from our eyes so that we may have a glimpse in this life and the hope of full disclosure in the life to come. Let that truth sink into the pores of your being today and celebrate it as you walk through the maze of confusing messages and distorted truth. You can see God.
Psalm 16:6 - The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Do you feel alone in your spiritual journey? Do you imagine that you are the only person in your school, workplace, or neighborhood that desires the things of God or seeks after His will? Do you wonder if there is even one other person who will stand with you for truth and righteousness? Are you overwhelmed by the loneliness of solitary seeking? Do you even wonder if the psalmist was somehow transported out of his time to speak of ours? Things have not changed that much have they? We all look back on better times when we were sure that there were more righteous and earnest people living among us and compare those times with our “todays.” We conclude that we are alone and that no one else is godly or faithful. While that is not true in every sense, it is in one. “There is none that is righteous, no not one.” We are indicted by that statement and must include ourselves among the number of the “no more” who have “vanished from the earth.” From God’s perspective and standard of perfect holiness, no one measures up. Then Jesus Christ enters the picture and He alone stands for truth. Our only hope is in Him and in Him we are not alone. Consciously align yourself with Him today and allow God to flush away that sense of “aloneness.”
Psalm 16:7 - I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
If you can’t trust a compliment, what can you trust? The psalmist has had it with flattery. He is discouraged over the tendency of his neighbors to use speech only to manipulate and deceive. We ought to develop that same level of disgust with untruth because all lying and falsehood are at odds with a God who is truth. Pretty lies are no better than ugly lies. Lies are lies and they are dark and dismal. Ask God to fill your heart with truth today and with a love for that truth so that whenever you would tell yourself a lie, you would immediately appeal to the God of truth and be rescued. Whatever urge you may have to be hard on your neighbors, start first with yourself and let God’s grace fill you and change you.
Psalm 16:8 - I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
First, consider this reflecting on Maundy Thursday – praise and flattery met Jesus upon His entry into the Holy City. “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord,” they cried and most likely meant what they said. Is it possible that some of those who praised Him on Sunday cursed Him on Thursday evening when He was arrested and brought to trial? Could it be that some who praised Him were seeking to manipulate Him for their own ends and to triumph with their tongues, even to co-opt Him for their own causes? Is it even possible that some that welcomed Him with their lips retained no sense of responsibility for their words beyond themselves? We see ourselves as masters of our words whenever we refuse to submit ourselves, body, soul, and spirit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the upper room and took the role of a servant. With His words and deeds, He offered His body and blood for the redemption of lost men and women. He emptied Himself and held nothing back. His words are truth and love. Let us bring ourselves and our words to Him in that same spirit. If possible, find a place this day to partake of communion with other believers and remember the sacrifice of Jesus and be reminded of His gracious words.
Psalm 16:9 – Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
God saw the oppression of the weak and heard the groaning of the needy, bound in the chains of sin and wickedness. Thus, He came to us as a man among men. He arose and took upon Himself of a lowly servant, He emptied Himself and became obedient unto the death of the cross. (Philippians 2) He identified with us completely, yet without sin and became our protector and deliverer from sin. God has always been the champion of the weak and needy. The Christ-event and the passion of the cross make it clear that every man, woman, and child is in need of a savior. We are all oppressed – even if we are oppressors. We each writhe in agony for someone to intervene in our darkness and bring us into the light. Friend, the cross, was, is, and always will be for you. Spend some time today meditating on it. Seek out other believers with whom you can worship in wake of Calvary. Get alone with God and thank Him for remembering you on the cross. Do not let this day pass as any other.
Psalm 16:10 - because you will not abandon my to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Oh, precious words, flawless, pure, beautiful in their refined glory. God’s words stir the soul, comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and pierce the heart with divine truth and brilliant light. On that dark Saturday between the cross and the resurrection, the disciples had only the remembrance of His words. What would they have meant to you in such an hour? What have they meant to you in your darkest hours. After the resurrection, Jesus would meet men on the road to Emmaus and remind them of His words and those that the Father had spoken over the centuries through the scriptures. He would bring them new meaning and their hearts would burn within them. Let Jesus apply all of God’s words to your heart in the darkness of death from the place of resurrection. We can never fully visit the despair of that bleak Saturday, but we can enter into our own darkness with the flawless Word of God to comfort our souls.
Psalm 16:11 - you have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
What a pointless prayer this would be divorced from resurrection truth! Without the resurrection we are exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. If Christ were not raised, we would be as Paul said, “still in our sins (I Cor. 15).” We could not expect help in the onslaughts of wicked and violent people or non-human forces from a dead and powerless God. Prayers would be futile attempts to feel better about our miserable circumstances. Compliance with ethics would be fruitless acts of legalistic compulsion if not overwhelmed by a dynamic conviction that God can raise the dead and thus, protect, deliver, and save. God raised Jesus from the dead and pronounced the death sentence on death. He is alive and brings to life all who trust in Him. Celebrate! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
"Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." -- Saint Francis of Assisi
Civility is important to me because of who I am-not because of who anyone else is.
I can't force it on anyone.
It doesn't mean I don't tell the truth or believe lies.
It doesn't mean I approve or pretend to approve.
It doesn't mean I stop resisting wrong.
It's my choice.
It is how we can relate.
It is how we remain humble, teachable, and real. It is also how we stay independent of any outside mind-coercion or control. It is how we get things done and create sustainable, effective change.
War is not a viable, sustainable, or healthy state of affairs. Neither armed warfare nor political or religious warfare.
So, I'll continue to try and be civil because my basic conviction about the dignity of every human cannot change just because I find it hard to respect their choices or views. That is a predetermined conviction and if it does not work out, oh well.
There will always be a way for me to express my feelings of repulsion or resistance to a tide of culture that offends my sensibilities. But I choose to treat people as kindly as I can without criticizing those who find that difficult or impossible.
And ... I will choose my indignation toward what might be uncivil very carefully, in context, and with a sense of balance... respectfully.
I heard a great comment in a webinar today. One of the panelists said that we are adding a layer of bureaucracy to support our current level of bureaucracy.
Now, that is a hoot!
Because of my background, I immediate applied it to the church and this morning's gospel. Jesus used the occasion of his disciples vying for recognition, position, power, and privilege to teach that, in his glory, the only two people to his right and left would be the two thieves crucified with him.
That was because he did not come to save himself or to serve himself, but to seek the lost, give his life, and serve people.
When the bureaucracy exists to serve the bureaucracy, there is a disconnect and a mission drift.
When the church starts existing to serve itself, prop itself up, defend its own rights, and assert its will, it is also missing the big point and the big mission.
Unfortunately, that has become daily life for many of us.
You may be asking that whenever you hear me or others say something like "Black lives matter" with passion, conviction, and tears.
Of course you matter.
You matter to God.
You matter to me.
Yes, I can affirm that all lives matter, but the God who sees us as He saw Hagar and Ishmael tends to be both specific and general in His declarations of love.
You matter ..
Your life, your pain, your history, your dreams.
Indigenous lives matter.
"White" lives matter.
Lonely lives matter.
Broken lives matter.
Criminal lives matter.
Police lives matter.
John's life matters as do the lives of Mary, Sal, Jim, and . Letisha.
I missed many.
But God misses none.
He calls them out in groups and individually as needed and whenever there is a loss of balance or need of emphasis or any hint that those lives might not matter as much as others.
If you cannot single someone out who has been singled out for exclusion, the word "all" does not mean much.
And, when that happens, someone, somewhere is going to feel insecure, forgotten, or marginalized.
God has not forgotten you.
God loves you.
I love you.
I have some very strong views and plan to express them in ways that may seem very opinionated. I filter them through a long and devoted commitment to hearing the voice of God in scripture while reading the past and the present.
It does not make me always right, but it tends to make me feel I am more right than wrong about some things ... My perspective.
But that does not mean I can build a curtain around myself, my views, and those who share them, excluding all others and saying, "only our lives, perspectives, and words matter."
I just wanted to say that today, because I have been struggling with it, leaning into the pain of the moment, how I sense God speaking, calling, and inviting in the moment.
I do not want to live deeply troubled over the fact that I strongly disagree with someone or they with me. Nor do I want to be intimidated by that or obligated to defend every point or convince every person in order for me or they to be ok.
Our OKness comes from God.
Jesus spoke in capital letters when he emphasized that love for God and neighbor sum up all the law and prophets.
I was at LAX in June, 2014, waiting for a flight to Israel. I arrived in the wee hours of the morning because I had come from Fresno by train. The international terminal was almost empty. I napped and watched intermittently.
Not so, for the man at the currency exchange counter. I do not believe he ever nodded off. He was alert every time I opened my eyes.
The dude seldom moved for over an hour.
Mostly, he had folded hands.
I waited for him to look down.
One person came by. As fate would have it, no currency exchange, but he did get directions.
Some jobs are hard - like waiting, and boredom.
He waits well for the exchange rate to change.
Then he pops into sudden action and changes the board.
Here is the outline. It is up to you to flesh it out.
First – Consider the Giver - Believe God
1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Gen. 15:6; also in verse 22)
The Message puts it this way: "Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own."
Second - Consider the Gift - Stop Counting on Our Works and Count Only on God’s Gift.
4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
The Message puts it this way: “If you're a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift. “
Third – Consider the Cost – The cost is forgiveness and forgiveness is costly.
7"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Psalm 32:1,2)
Fourth – Consider Your Response – There is a twofold response.
9Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
A Two-Fold Response
Take the Seal.
Walk in Faith.
Fifth – Consider the Benefits
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
Sixth - Consider Two Great Examples
18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Abraham demonstrated faith.
Jesus died, in faith, for all who would come by faith.
“And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence… So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45:3,8
Fathers, you are making history daily.
Joseph, who had in Egypt become a father to the king, was facing the very men who had snatched him from his father’s house and sold him into slavery. Because they were his father’s sons, these men who had sinned against him so deviously, were still his brothers. More than that, Joseph knew that they had been instrumental in God’s plan for his life in Egypt. They were unwitting agents of God’s deeper and more eternal purposes in preparing His people for His purpose of redemption through the Messiah.
Nothing can thwart God’s plan.
But through years of slavery, Joseph, who adapted and thrived in every new situation, had not forgotten his father. It was his father who had loved him, encouraged him, provided the earliest example of integrity to him, and had taught him the lessons of life. But his father had not always been such a man.
Joseph had excelled in character that had come to Jacob later in life. He had not, as a young man been the man his son was. He had dealt treacherously with his own brother and the lack of integrity in his early life had, no doubt, helped to shape the character of his older sons.
But Joseph was raised by Israel, the man Jacob had become through an encounter with God and his character was shaped by a different man than the one who had stolen his brother’s birthright and dealt deceptively with his own father. As fathers, our own character will help to shape that of our sons and will impact history.
16:12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
We have a GUIDE- So, ,FOLLOW -
6:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
There is GLORY and verified credibility - So FIND it is Christ
(The term doxa is aGreek term (δόξα) that comes from the verb dokein (δοκεῖν), meaning 'to appear, to seem, to think, to accept'. Between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE, the term picked up an additional meaning when the Biblical Hebrew word for 'glory' (כבוד, kavod) was translated by the Septuagint as doxa. , a term with social, moral, and theological implications derived from the Hebrew root for weight, meaning honor, respect, reverence, importance, distinction, or glory. A person gives kavod (honor) to .)
16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
There is no place in the Bible where it says we are saved on the basis of our accuracy or certainty with regard to our theological stances.
That is not the meaning of faith.
Faith is not opinion, thought it moves us to opine in one direction or another.
Faith is not orthodoxy, though the orthodoxy of our teachings should flow through the filter of faith.
We are not tested on our facts or perceptions before gaining entrance into the Kingdom of God.
One is not suggesting that we set out with the goal to be wrong or wobbly in our convictions. It is the opposite. The perpetual love of truth, desire for truth, and seeking of truth must be done from a place of openness to truth and willingness to recant or rethink.
Sometimes, we are not doubting God, but our ideas about God when we seem to be wavering.
The trajectory of our lives is the indicator of faithfulness, moving toward that which is eternally true and real.
We seek God in each measured segment of time, in each manifestation of reality, and in each perplexing question.
This is true of our trust in Jesus as the Word of God. There is no Christology exam that determines the prestige of our address in the New Jerusalem. We determine to trust Jesus and follow Jesus wherever Jesus is and however Jesus reveals himself to us at different stages of our journey.
Thus, with the Bible. As we determine that it contains a message from God that is true and reliable, we do so without the assumption that we fully understand it and with a commitment to study and know it better, employing every tool at our disposal to grasp the message of each narrative and essential teaching. We sort out the literary genre's, the canonical purpose for inclusion, the context, the voice of who is speaking, God or human, and we pray, think, pray, act.
But whether we are right or wrong at any given time is not the test of our seeking faith, in God, God's Son, or the Bible.
We teach the doctrine of grace and then, apply legalism to those who do not fully understand it or articulate it as we do.
None of this is to say that Christian faith is without a spine or skeletal structure. Structure exists, but even in creation, those humans born with variations of physiology are still human. Something deeper defines their humanity.
Something deeper defines our spirituality..
Much of our systematic theology and rigid dogmatism, while helpful for finding common ground of understanding, seems to flow more from an engineer's slide rule than from an artist's brush.
We need all the tools, but we also need humility when we are tempted to categorize people and their faith based upon their accuracy and certainty.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. - Acts 2:3
Sometimes the word God has for others or for us comes and sits on us. Then, it does its work and we are as amazed as the listeners. We jut don’t know where it came from or how we could be used so mightily – except that God did something spectacular. Often, we don’t know what to say or how to say it. We do not speak the “language” of an acquaintance. We may share a common tongue, but we do not know the language of his or her heart.
Words are like triggers sometimes. Careless, even innocent use of some words can push the play buttons on “old tapes” sending the listener into a rage of defensive posturing. More often, we overuse words and speech patterns. The ears of listeners grow dull to the repetitious sound of our religious platitudes and spiritual utterances. What we say is true, but the truth does not penetrate or take root because it is not heard. So, either a wall of defense is build to keep the gospel out or a wall of apathy. Either way, a fire is needed to burn away the walls.
At Pentecost, all heard the gospel in their own languages. More important, each person heard the word in the language of his or her heart. It penetrated deeply and cut to the quick. It burned away resistance and complacency with the heat of its passion and the clarity of consuming fury.
We need tongues of fire today as well. We need our own souls set on fire by the Holy Spirit who alone can burn through the rubbish of noisy distractions and set the world on fire with the ”buzz” of God’s good news. Do you deeply desire to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ? Give yourself over to God and ask Him, in faith, to speak through you, believing that He will. You will be amazed and people you never expected to pay attention will hear the life-changing message of Jesus.
And Another Meditation on this Verse
The tongue holds a prominent place in scripture – sometimes for the evil it can do and other times as a tremendous force for good. In the New Testament, it is the purveyor of the good news of Jesus Christ. By the foolishness of preaching, the gospel is spread throughout the world regardless of the languages of the people.
Fire burns away dross and every superficial thing that vies for attention and distracts from the message of truth. Fire burns in the hearts of those who are entrusted with God’s message so that the message spreads without hindrance and impacts all who are in its path.
At Pentecost, God placed His message of grace in the hearts and on the tongues of every believer. Consider the each and the every, the individual and the collective in the experience of Pentecost. God calls us each to worship Him and that is very personal, intimate, and individualized. But He also calls us, everyone, to be part of the whole, to be joined as a body in the ensemble of harmonic voices lifted in unified praise in and through the Holy Spirit to the glory of His Name and the proclamation of His Word.
Today, as we come together, we are many and we are one in the celebration of the mystery of the Holy Spirit in the majesty of the Body. We are here at God’s invitation and sent forth with His commission because of Pentecost.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. -Romans 8:15
Little Sarah was only three years old. All day long, she had been home doing what little girls do. But as the sun began to go down and the smell of hot rolls filled the house, her tiny heart began to sing with anticipation. She knew that evening meant one thing. Her daddy would soon walk through the door. The love of her life would come home from a hard day at work, and she would run to meet him, jump in his arms, and be embraced with joy and love.
"Daddy, I missed you," she would exclaim. "You’re finally home! I'm so glad you are here."
At that, her father's heart would melt.
The Spirit of God invites us to pray as Jesus prayed, Abba, or Daddy.
We are drawn into a relationship of warmth, acceptance, and love with our Heavenly Father. Those of us who have enjoyed such relationships with our earthly fathers have a glimpse of what our relationship with God can be. Those of us who have not had such relationships can take comfort in the knowledge of His absolute love and unbridled joy when we call out to Him and jump into His arms.